Tag: 18th Street
This is another 6 minute double song This one actually is two whole different songs. One’s called 18th Street and the second one’s called 16th Street. This song has an “homage”, as it were, to a poem by Jason Bayani, a badass Bay Area poet. He has a poem about a kid who’s grown up in San Francisco and has never seen the ocean (for those of you that don’t know that’s ridiculous - San Francisco is 7 miles across - but that’s what happens when you’re stuck).
This is a song that’s all about San Francisco and New York. I wrote the first verse of 18th Street while driving around in the dark in the mission trying to find the damn freeway. In San Francisco there are places where it will have a sign that says “freeway” and point right - not “880 N” or “110 S” but “freeway”, and you turn and there’s never another sign and you just get lost.
Then the second verse is about New York. I was working there a lot, I think I spent 4 weeks there and then 3 or something. I did NOT like Wall Street. “temples and icons and choking and rocks” I have a bite from White Lines (the classic Grandmaster Flash song) in that verse.
Man there’s such sadness in these San Fran songs. “I’ve been every place I could think to go, still I couldn’t find what I’m looking for”
In the 16th Street side, it’s more of a rap. I wrote it on the train on the way home from 16th and Mission, where they do this outdoor poetry reading/whatever (juggler? fire eater? violinist?). I performed there a few times, but the first time I went, I was totally by myself, and I totally got scared and turned back. I just got back on the train. I don’t know why I was afraid. I’d done so many performances, open mics, etc. It wasn’t that. It could’ve been the location or something. It was a little bit of a wild place. Half the time a drunken guy would try to start a fight.
What’s funny is that given who I am, I feel like I’m supposed to just TOTALLY relish that wild energy, the crazy badass we’re doing poems in the street what, anything could happen, freedom of it all. Badass! And it is, but I didn’t really relish that particular version of it. I suppose I relish the wildness of the entire world, but the mission district in San Francisco, you can have. And let’s be honest, it’s the danger. Really the mission district is thought of as a dangerous place, and it is. It’s not more dangerous than a lot of places, though. But it’s dangerous enough, and there’s a spiritual side to it. There’s a lot of anguished energy there. This whole song, both 3 minute halves, is about that danger, really. It’s about two things: The danger, and the unhealth of seeking fame, fortune, whatnot.
Which put together really means it’s about my own unhealth in general. But as I always talk about the poetry knowing more than you, the song says it at the end. It talks about how I was afraid and how danger can come in many forms and how I turned back, and all of this stuff, and in the end, the lyrics are advising me. I become this sort of teacher character like a lot of poets do, but I’m not really trying to teach anybody but myself.
There I am the whole song talking about A) that i’ve been seeking and not finding and B) that i’ve been afraid and focused on danger - which ultimately leads to C) nothing. But the lyric at the end is:
don’t know what you been told but the danger’s in YOU
it comes with you when you leave the platform sinew
no matter how you run it will catch up with you
no elbow knife or gun can ever kill it
voodoo comes because you’re scared and you hide like I did
everybody sees through your shut down eyelids
I don’t know what to do when I’m frozen neither
I try to warm it up but I come up empty
next day I’m back to the working stiff beat
until my eyes glaze and raise up a steel sheet
maybe that’s why at 16th and mission
nothin i could spit could get me what i’m wishin
i just wanna smile at a girl in san fran
and have her look back and see somethin different
i know it can be done hell i done it myself
but i guess it’s never gonna be a spiritual cakewalk
down where the bells toll backwards brimstone
and hippy kids play with the gangsters watchin
maybe the next time i’m lookin at that shit
i’ll drop the facade hit the street and spit
Jeeze. I actually feel like getting back on stage now after reading that.